The COVID-19 pandemic has made us look for a way out that will keep us all protected. A term that has been thrown around by pandemic experts and news reporters is “herd immunity”. We have heard a lot about it, but what does it mean?
Herd immunity is when the majority of the population is immune to a virus and, therefore, can protect those who do not have immunity. For example, if 80% of the population is immune, 4 out of 5 people will not contract anything when they interact with someone who is sick. This means that the spread is being contained and cases are declining. To get to this type of decline, at least 50% to 90% of the population needs to be immune. The ultimate goal is to get to those numbers of immunity.
How to Reach It
Reaching herd immunity can only be done in two ways. The first is through natural resistance. This just means people get sick and, as they recover, their body forms an immunity to the virus and will protect them from future contraction. The downside to this method is that it can lead to widespread sickness and even, in extreme cases, death. The second way to gain immunity is through vaccinations. Vaccinations work by injecting you with a weakened or imitation virus that does not make you sick, or by providing your body information on how to replicate parts of the virus. Your body then develops antibodies that fight off that particular virus any time it ever tries to come back.
Just like everything else in life, there are challenges to reaching herd immunity. The first challenge is that COVID-19 is such a new virus that no one had ever gotten it before, therefore, there is no existing immunity to build on. Along with that, because it is new, there is no way to know how long the immunity will last. If we compare it to the flu, then we should expect a few months, but that is not a guarantee.
Is there hope?
Since we have been making good progress with the rollouts of vaccinations, there is good hope that we will eventually reach herd immunity. However, to guarantee faster results, we should continue wearing masks and social distancing. Doing so will help keep the ratio of those getting sick to those getting vaccinated pretty low. Of course, not everyone will be vaccinated and that may lead to surges of COVID cases, but as long as more people are immune than those who are not, we should be on a good track.
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We hope this information on herd immunity is helpful.
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